Thanksgiving is about enjoying time with our family and celebrating with traditional foods we know and love. However, the holiday can impact the time we usually reserve for our healthy routines and involve meals that are not exactly made to be heart-healthy!
To keep your diet and health in check over the Thanksgiving holiday, try these ideas below, including ways to minimize stress and smart substitutions for your holiday meals.
Try healthy substitutes
We love family recipes, and these simple tricks make them better for you and your family’s heart health (without totally changing the taste).
- Instead of butter, substitute equal parts cinnamon-flavored, no-sugar-added applesauce.
- Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
- Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.
- Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
- Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
- Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor, instead of sugar or butter.
- Use vegetable oils such as olive oil instead of butter (even in your mashed potatoes).
- Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes instead of butter and salt.
- Use whole-grain breads and pastas instead of white.
- Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
- Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or fat-free/skim milk.
Prepare vegetables, eat a balanced meal
Now that you’ve prepared some of your Thanksgiving meal with healthy substitutes, prepare yourself a balanced plate of all your favorite holiday foods, starting with a salad and vegetables. Eating your veggies will ensure you get the nutrients you need and will help fill you up so you don’t overload on the foods your body needs less of, such as rolls, stuffing and pie.
Increase physical activity
Increase your physical activity over Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season to combat the extra calories and additional stress. Go for a family walk after each meal or gathering. Play catch with your kids. Take just 40 minutes for yourself and go to the gym to release endorphins your body needs to stay healthy.
Keep stress to a minimum
Taking care of family, cooking, cleaning—Thanksgiving can involve a lot of activities that not only keep you busy, but can also increase your level of stress. Keep stress to a minimum with stress management techniques. These can include:
- Planning ahead to help you with time management
- Focusing on one thing at a time
- Taking time to relax
Get enough sleep
Part of living a heart-healthy lifestyle means getting enough sleep. Why? Because your quality of sleep can impact your heart health. The American Heart Association recommends adults get six to eight hours of sleep per night. Over the holiday, get into bed early to give yourself enough time to wind down after your day and to fall asleep faster and more soundly
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